The Best Bubble Tea in Toronto
The best bubble tea in Toronto is, surprisingly, not exclusive to the suburban areas. While the frozen tundras of Chinatown North (inexplicably written in some maps as Markham and Richmond Hill) still lay claim to the largest number of people whose weekend nights consist exclusively of sipping a tapioca-laden milk tea and chatting animatedly with friends, there has been a largely unnoticed growth of excellent bubble tea shops in the city of Toronto proper.
This, coupled with the fact that many of these uptown cafes also have locations south of the 401, has meant a proliferation of places where you can sample this popular Taiwanese invention all across town.
Here are the best bubble tea places in Toronto.
You wouldn’t know it from looking at its unfortunately shabby exterior, but Chatime is part of a very well-established international chain of bubble tea shops. With a large array of customizable options (my personal favourite being the refreshing passionfruit tea) along with extremely helpful staff, it’s easy to understand why this multinational group is a big success worldwide. The only downside is their lack of seating options, making this a great takeout, but not necessarily hangout, option. Also, it’s not “chat-time” (as in talking to your friends) but rather “cha-time” (which is the Chinese word for tea). More »
Hailed by many fans as one of the founding fathers of the suburban Toronto bubble tea scene (a Mt. Rushmore-like sculpture is being readied somewhere, I’ve been told), Green Grotto provides fresh bubble tea sans the powdery taste and feel that many purists scoff at, in a cozy environment resplendent with WiFi and tons of reading material. While its Highway 7 location provides an array of magazines not uncommonly found at other bubble tea places, the Warden location actually offers books (and free popcorn), which creates the charming effect of having a fusion library-cafe of sorts. More »
Winner of the least subtle call-to-action within a business name award, Go For Tea provides your regular assortment of bubble teas and slushes in an upscale environment. They are (quite rightly) proud about the rather posh interior decoration, which wouldn’t look out of place in some of the more chic spots in Asia, and they also provide one of the most comprehensive food options in a bubble tea place. Whereas other spots’ offerings are mostly limited to snacks, one can easily get full meal combos here, such as the always divine pairing of popcorn chicken and rice with a cold honeydew milk tea. More »
I have personally never seen a tea establishment quite as wonderfully chaotic as Fruit Jungle. Despite seemingly unable to make up their mind over what the name should be (I’ve seen signs that show their name as Food Jungle), this place is adamant in using 100% real fruit juice in their beverages. All their teas taste quite different from what one is normally accustomed to, which is a testament to how much powdered stuff is out there. Try carefully reading their jungle (ha ha) of colourful papers that they stick all over the front of the counter advertising their various flavours. It's a total mess, but adds a kitschy charm and can whittle away the better part of your afternoon before you notice it. More »
Yet another popular international chain, Ten Ren's offers a stunning array of bubble teas, along with more traditional Chinese teas, at their many locations. One of their most popular spots is located in Richmond Hill, which provides unique tea slushes (such as the green tea and red bean slush), along with a fascinating menu selection where almost everything is tea-flavoured , which tastes a lot better than it seems, such as the delicious green tea dumplings. The prices are a bit higher than most typical bubble tea joints, but they do offer one of the more upscale environments in town. More »
If you walk in here uninformed and unprepared on a weekend night, you’d be forgiven to think that you just got teleported into the middle of Hong Kong/Taipei/Shanghai, such is the large Asian population present within its spacious walls. Destiny is arguably the main bubble tea hangout spot for the suburban Chinatown residents (it has another, even bigger location up at the large East Beaver Creek conurbation of restaurants). With its ultra-spacious feel, ample seating, modern interior, large assortment of teas and snacks, along with techno music (OK this one’s a bit odd), it is a wonderful (con)fusion of bubble tea cafe and lounge-wannabe. Definitely an experience to savour, though they do use powdered flavouring quite liberally in their teas. More »
In contrast to the blizzard of confusion that is Fruit Jungle (not to mention the lack of seats), One Hour is one of the most serene- and minimalist-looking bubble tea places I’ve ever seen. It features simple wooden tables with beanbag chairs, perfect for study or hangout sessions. The bubble teas here are smooth-tasting and refreshing (one particular standout is the taro bubble tea-with a bit of gritty texture that accentuates the authenticity of the ingredients), but by far the most unique aspect of the place is its overall ambiance. If you ever wondered if there was ever a bubble tea place that felt a little hipster-like, then wonder no more. More »
Though I’m still not sure how to pronounce this place’s name (Do they mean cha? As in the Chinese word for tea? Why don’t they opt for the easier spelling?), Tsaa Tea Shop serves up excellent tea and is an excellent place to go if you have a craving for bubble teas in the rather unlikely location of Greektown. Their menu has much more Western offerings, such as lattes, than most of the other tea places on this list, but their bubble teas are nothing to scoff at, with real fruits and large serving sizes. Heck, the fact that you’re sitting by the Danforth and NOT having gyros is probably something worth experiencing in itself. More »
While this tea house’s name stirs up images of soccer in my head (due to CL usually being associated with Champions League), it is in fact a cute and underrated bubble tea shop in the Village by the Grange mall. Bright and cheerful (though without a dedicated seating spot of its own), it provides a combination of bubble teas and smoothies, and often have daily specials for under $2, which really can’t be beat. One of my favourites is the thick and creamy avocado smoothie, made with real fruit. The place is simple and a little bit different, which makes it fit right in with the rather off-kilter mall. More »